bountiful within the blah…

This morning I turned to this verse:  “I will sing to the LORD, because he has dealt bountifully with me” (Psalm 13:6).

I live in a world full of stuff.  Advertisements tell me I need every last bit of it, too.  I rarely feel as though I’ve been dealt with ‘bountifully’.

But, here are the facts:  I have been dealt with bountifully, even if it’s hard for me to comprehend.

As I type, I’m watching my Judah play on an exercise mat. He’s munching on his goldfish, trying to grind the crumbs into the plastic with his bare feet.  He’s got a saggy diaper…again.  He’s calling our puppy over to eat the crumbs, making a “kissing” sound with his lips.

Life is bountiful with crumbs, mischief, and soggy diapers. I just told our congregation on Mother’s Day morning, as a part of a Mom’s Panel, that it is a struggle as a stay-at-home mom to have a sense of meaningful identity, value, and worth.  The difficulty comes in moments like this…when the floor is covered by yellow cracker shrapnel…when I am attempting to focus on something greater than the fact that my son is now sharing his cup of water with the dog.  When these are the endless details of my day I feel as though my days are useless.  I can’t even finish forming a thought before the next mess is made or the next disaster needs to be averted.  Feelings of bountifulness seem to only revolve around frustration…not blessing.  I’m not even considering bountiful blessings.

Have you ever been poked repeatedly?  In the same spot?  It can become numbing, not only to that particular area of the skin, but to all the senses.  This is how detainees are tortured!  Loud intrusive sound, constant touch and pricking…if it’s used to break even the strongest of secret spies, than imagine what it can do to an already tired mom!  This is what happens to people who stay at home with young children.  Our emotional senses and mental processes are poked repeatedly throughout the day, that a coma is induced.  Introspection and spiritual growth seem as confounding and impossible as waking the dead.  Good judgment and resolve go out the window.

I think much of my anxiety about sounding dull or stupid among small groups of adults was birthed out of this motherhood zombie state.  I can feel as though I have nothing worthwhile to share with other adults because I am not reading insightful articles or engaging in philosophical conversation throughout the day…I don’t even have the news on, just SuperWhy.  It greatly effects my view of self.  Hot topics and relevant adult conversation fly over my head.  (And rarely, do a group of adults find the value in being able to sing every PBS kids show theme song.)  I can lose my identity in the mundane repetition of diaper changing and household duties.  I rarely do anything by myself, including going to the bathroom!  And I do my best thinking when I am alone.  It can feel as though we, as care-takers, fade into the background, void of individual talents or unique perspective.

I daily need to re-identify myself with Jesus–who He is, and therefore, who He says I am.  It’s a struggle, especially, when all my faculties of thought and insight seem to have left the building 11 years ago.  However, it’s necessary for me to realize my value and worth.  I am a priceless treasure to God, with a unique perspective of His love and grace, because I am not relying on the success of my own talents throughout the day.  I have to remember He has good things for me, even in the goldfish crumbs.

As I look at my two-year old and focus on the goodness of God, I see less crumbs and more cute:  His white-blond hair as it flips behind his ears.  His sparkling blue eyes.  His huge smile as the puppy eats goldfish from his hands.  He isn’t focusing on the magnitude of his soggy diaper situation.  He’s focusing on all that is good.  What an example of thankfulness and joy, of magnifying the good, not the bad.

He has just brought me a single goldfish.  “Aaahhh,” he says to me.  “Mama- Aahhh.”  I can choose to focus on the meek and meager size of the snack, perhaps spend time questioning wether or not it’s been licked by the pet.  OR, I can choose to partake and savor the cracker, because it is a gift.  It seems small and insufficient.  It will take concentration from a weak and spent heart and mind.  This is the true task of the day.  The blessing is there, though…it’s in the palm of my hand.

Jesus, help me see you in every part of my day.  Help me to find the sufficient in the scant.  The satisfactory in the sparse.  The bountiful in the bare.  Amen.


Day 32 & 33…

Day 32- clean sheets and pork

Today when I woke up, I decided it was time to wash the sheets.  I started with the baby crib, because of course he would need to use it again before any of the rest of us.  Next, my sheets.  Why?  Because I am selfish.  There is nothing worse than looking forward to clean linens when you are headed to the bedroom, only to remember you left them in the washer all day soaking wet.  I wanted to avoid that happening to me at all cost, even if it meant someone else had to spend another night on dirty sheets.

As my sheets were in the dryer, I was preparing dinner. (Yes, you did the math correctly, there are a lot of missing hours in there…I may have gotten a little distracted.) We were making pizza and I was frying up some Italian sausage.  I love me some pork.  As I was browning the deliciousness, I thought about the Old Testament law that forbid eating pig.  What, dear Lord, were you thinking?

Then, I thought about how that all changed when Jesus came and Peter had that vision about eating unclean animals.  (It was really all about Jesus accepting all of us people, the Jew and the Gentile, but whatever….)  Oh, sweet Jesus came and gave us back “the other white meat!”  Ava has a shirt that says, “BACON…another reason I know Jesus loves me.”  Oh, yes. Yes, he does.

Pork is great.  Pork chops, bacon, tenderloin, pork roast, carnitas…even pork rinds…all good.  What is even better is that Jesus made the unclean clean.  The freedom acquired by His sacrifice on the cross allows us all kinds of good things, including forgiveness, a clean record,  and new life.  Just like my dirty sheets rolling in the dryer, we have all been given a fresh start, a clean slate.  There is nothing like it…well, except maybe sliding into a clean bed with a full belly.  AMEN.

“And I heard a voice saying to me, ‘Rise, Peter; kill and eat.’ ” 

Acts 11:7


 Day 33- Jon Acuff

Jon Acuff was in Houston this morning promoting his book, Do Over, and offering a short discussion and networking opportunity called “Do Over Club.”  The New York Times best-selling author really challenged me in his approach to opportunity and risk, and especially self-promotion.  He said when we do something awesome, we should tell people about it.


That is really, really hard for me!  Out of fear of not being humble, I keep my mouth shut about most of what I do that turns out well, (even if it’s finally getting the right number of seconds on the microwave, finding that perfect medium between lukewarm hotdog and wiener explosion).  I am more inclined to talk about how I could improve, try harder, or just be different.  I was encouraged by his upbeat, fearless, and carefree attitude.

In the spirit of taking risks and jumping into opportunities, I gave him a copy of my book, A Girl and Her Warhorse.  I discovered that I wasn’t completely at a loss for words, which was surprising, but also that my deodorant is not meeting-best-selling-author-proof.  He may not read it, which I’m secretly praying for, because that means all risk is void and nothing is lost.  When I consider him actually opening it, I start to panic and freak.  What if he thinks it’s stupid?  Not well written?  Boring?

And then I remember, (again), that I’ve got to just trust Jesus.  I need to lean on what He has done for me through this process.  My relationship with Jesus is deeper due to writing this book. God may have done all of this–led me down this path–just for His pursuit of my heart.  I pray that He uses the book to foster the same intimacy for others, but if it’s just for me…I can be happy with that.

So thank you, Jon Acuff.  Unknown to you, I added you to Lent.  Thanks for encouraging us and softening the awkwardness of taking leaps of faith.  I will just keep walking through the doors in front of me, in fear, yes, but jumping through them.  I will apply lots of hustle and jump a little more.  I’ll just keep smiling and rejoicing at the awkwardness that ensues.  I’m feeling a flip in my heart when it comes to this journey.  Thank you.

“He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the Lord.”

Psalm 40:3

Lent: Day 20, 21, and 22…

Day 20: Trampolines

Spring Break is officially half spent. All we’ve done is sleep in and have people over. It’s time to get out. The kids have been begging to go to JumpStreet, a trampoline park. So we added trampolines to Lent.

The older three headed to the main section of the park while Judah and I hit the “7 and under” area. I put him down in front of the trampoline, took my seat on the floor against the wall, and told him, “jump.” He looked at me with an impish smile, looked back at the trampoline, and ran into my lap. I stood him up, pointed to one of the dozen inflatable balls lying around and again said, “Go…jump.” He got up and ran to get a ball that was in the middle of the trampoline, but abruptly stopped at its edge, curling his tiny toes to keep from falling.

He surveyed the land for a bit, walked over to the space in between the brightly colored trampolines, and slowly lowered one foot on its rigid surface. Then, he slowly walked, one foot strategically placed in front of the other, down the one-foot-wide green non-bouncy strip.  Like a tightrope walker, he methodically ventured. He paused as he came parallel to the ball in the center of the trampoline, the wheels turning in his mind to plan his next move. Just then, another toddler jumped on the opposite end of the trampoline, and wouldn’t you know it, the ball rolled directly into Judah’s little body. He looked back at me with amazement as he reached his short arms around that gigantic ball and pivoted on his solid path to make his way back to me.

As he walked, the large ball impaired his field of vision, blinding the two feet directly in front of him. As he neared the end of the green runway, he miscalculated the end of the trampoline and took a sharp left turn towards me. He caught the corner of the trampoline, running four little steps on it’s bouncy taut skin. Immediately, his 2-year-old body gained momentum and speed, and he instinctively rose to the tippy tops of his toes. His eyes were too large suns peering over the horizon of that big red ball. Before he knew it, he was back on the solid floor face to face with me. He lowered the ball, looked at me and said, “whoa.”

What joy he was missing walking along the safe edges of life. Me too! I never thought I’d be publicly thanking JumpStreet, but, yes, thanks is in order. I am grateful for the reminder that sometimes joy is just on the other side of risk. I can trust God that if he tells me to “jump” and go fetch a ball that lies in the middle of an ominous unstable place, He isn’t throwing me into danger. I can trust that He’s pushing me to experience new things and the fullness of life. whoa.

“The Lord is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts, and I am helped; my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to him.”

Psalm 28:7


Day 21: windshield time

Today we headed to Austin. I love the space of green that exists along vast expanses of highway, in between the buildings and busyness of cities.

As we drove, the kids watched Finding Nemo and the adults had a chance to talk and catch up. I’ve been forced to ask some hard questions of myself lately, involving purpose and life goals. I have some decisions laid before me that require the investment of time and money, but first I need to know if that’s the path God wants me to walk down.  It was good to discuss my thoughts and feelings with someone who knows me like none other. It was enlightening to hear how he sees me and the purposes to which he thinks God has called me.

I’m thankful for a partner, for his insight, and his patience with his often confused and bewildered wife. We call these car ride conversations having ‘windshield time’. It was good to add this to Lent, to take the time to ponder and reflect on these questions. Processing my own goals while considering Jesus’ life and the purpose to which He was called, is humbling and recalibrating.  It’s also amusing to have the conversation with Dori in the background singing, “Just keep swimming…swimming, swimming, swimming…”

If God can speak through a donkey, he can use an animated fish, right?!

“Oil and perfume make the heart glad, and the sweetness of a friend comes from his earnest counsel.”

Proverbs 27:9 

“Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future.”

Proverbs 19:20 


Day 22: familiar places and faces

Today we visited Buda Elementary. When we were discussing our trip to Austin, the girls pleaded to go to recess at their previous school so they could see old friends. It happens to also be the school where The Well gathers every Sunday for church. It was surreal to be back, comforting to be “home”, yet sad to know that we would not be staying. It was just a year ago, over Spring Break 2014, that we piled into the moving van and relocated…how timely to be back for a visit.

Today we added familiar places and faces to Lent. In doing so, we treasured the past and gained hope for the future. We made sure to hug every familiar person and take in all the memories of the place…painting the paw prints on the sidewalks, Easter-egg hunts in the courtyard, and doughnuts by the nurses office, to name just a few.  I remember the first day of Kindergarten for our oldest, so many years ago, and worrying about leaving her with people I didn’t know. Now, I call them friends and trust those people more than ever. Recalling this makes me view our current home and surroundings in a refreshed light. One day, I will look back at this first year and remember the fear of starting a new adventure, only to bask in the love and memories that God is already fostering.  I’m excited for the new stories that He is writing–for us, for The Well, for Buda Elementary, and for our new family in Katy.

“O Lord, you are my God; I will exalt you; I will praise your name, for you have done wonderful things, plans formed of old, faithful and sure.”

Isaiah 25:1

Lent: Day 4 and 5…

Day 4: Order

I’ve been saying for some time now, that I need to get rid of the clothes that are too small for the kids or that they just refuse to wear.  The excess in their drawers and closets makes it nearly impossible to keep any of their rooms clean and clutter-free.  So, Saturday morning, we added some order.  We sorted and folded, packed and placed.

It’s good for me to be reminded that sometimes the tasks that seem insurmountable in all actuality take little to no time to accomplish.  We were rewarded for not fretting the job and just tackling it head on.  Now we can see the floor and actually walk into the walk-in closets.  It’s actually safe to enter now.

 “The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe.”

Proverbs 29:25

Day 5: A Child

Before you gasp, throwing your hands over your mouth to contain a squeal, let me explain.  I invited a child over for the afternoon to play with the kids.  We are NOT expecting another baby. 🙂 This is a really rare thing, (yes, not expecting…AND inviting over other children) and I know many, many parents out there have other kids over all the time for playdates, especially on the weekends.  However, Sundays for us are very full and usually very exhausting, so to add another child to the mix was a big deal for this momma…and my kids.

Jesus blessed our family through this little girl.  My kids didn’t bicker or fight as much with another person in the mix.  The whole group dynamic changed and it was wonderful.  So, Sunday, I added a kid, and learned that my fear of the world imploding due to under-aged domination and tyranny was unfounded…well, at least with this particular group of kids. 🙂

 “The Lord is on my side; I will not fear. What can man [or child] do to me?”

Psalm 118:6

a dramatic neurotic basket-case, but safe

So I have realized that I have been rather dramatic lately.  Dramatic in my writing, dramatic in my processing, and even dramatic in my cleaning.  Just the other day, Paul and I were frantically cleaning every inch of the house to get it ready to go on the market.  I definitely had a strategy to my madness.  I was working from one end of the house to the other.  There were flowers on the table that were ready to be pruned and picked down and redistributed to a smaller vase.  My plan was to attack that when I literally got to it on the table in my evenly horizontal sweep of the room.  Even though it wasn’t as high a priority as the dirty dishes in the sink it made sense to me to work in this way.  When my mental red line, that divided the half of the room that was done from the half that was undone, reached the vase, it was time to deal with the flowers.  I did the same when I came to a bowl of small oranges.  Some needed to be discarded and some could be saved and arranged into something that would look pretty.  Having the citrus arrangement wasn’t on the to-do list from our realtor.  But it made sense to me that when I got to the bowl, taking care of the oranges at that moment was just the next thing to do.  This didn’t make a whole lot of sense to Paul and he gently suggested that maybe I not get distracted on the things that weren’t top priority.  I did not respond well.  I really let it get the best of me and my cleaning all of a sudden became an emotional, personally defining thing.  It was a lot of drama.   I couldn’t really understand myself and all this emotion.  Our lives have been crazy and I have been storing a ton of emotions right underneath the surface of my skin, but haven’t even had the time to recognize that they are there.

So here I am, sitting in front of my computer—my church bench of perspective.  I have been absent from attending this place with the Father.  I have avoided it’s hard and cold form—it’s intimidating blank white screen.  I have kept myself busy with obligations and hurriedness to keep from feeling the things I hate to even consider.  How often do we hide from the One who knows all.  It’s so silly and foolish.  So here I am…let’s get it over with.  I’m ready to feel it all, to finally process all the change that’s ahead of me.  Let’s strip back the skin and peel off the layers to uncover where all that drama is coming from.

My first emotion is sadness.  We have been in Buda for close to 8 years.  It is the longest amount of time Paul and I have lived in one place since having met back in college.  Three out of the four of our children were born in Buda and little Judah just celebrated his first birthday here.  The Well is the only church our kids know—the only church family they have ever had.  The people who visited us in the hospital at their births, witnessed their baptisms, came to birthday parties, and babysat in between—these are the people we are leaving.  The people are our community and our family.  The past 8 years we have sacrificed time, energy, finances, birthdays, anniversaries, date nights, and lots of emotional outpouring of our hearts for and with these people. They have been our purpose, our mission, and our life for the past 8 years.  We have walked through pain and suffering with each other.  We have shared in joy and celebration.  This has been a hard decision.  It’s not easy to leave all who we treasure so dearly.  This isn’t a career choice or simply changing jobs.  What is being asked of us is to relocate away from dear family and friends.  We like The Well.  We love The Well.  We genuinely like the people and have fun with them.  But God, in His gracious mercy has made it abundantly clear that the best thing for our family at The Well is to make room for new leadership and a refreshed approach.  It is out of love for The Well that we leave.  It’s like the parent who knows that what’s best for their son or daughter is for them to go to an out-of-state university or college that offers the best program for the desired degree.  Mothers don’t want to have their children far away from them, but know that the growth and development acquired during that time of distance provides maturation, independence and a wealth of knowledge.  Then there is just the simple fact that we feel called.  We feel through the Spirit that God is asking us to go.  He is asking us if we are willing to leave our mother, father, sister and brother, to follow Him.  Following can be sad.

My second emotion is awe.  We also see how God has prepared us in our 8 years in Buda for the tasks at hand in Katy.  We have walked through our own cycles of repentance and restoration, that we have grown and matured in ways we could never have forecasted.  Living in our independence from our own works has strengthened our dependence on Jesus.  His provision, His restoration, and His vision for us has brought us to a place where it is just so obvious that we can do nothing apart from Him.  We see through this move, the same message of dependence on Him for both The Well and Crosspoint.  Jesus has so much for us.  We just have to get our idols out of the way.  Isn’t this the struggle for every believer in every situation?

In my time here in front of my blank computer screen, I’ve thought about more than just the past month of intense decision making and busyness.  There are certain times in life when we get those big-picture moments.  I had a friend in college call them “big” moments, when you somewhat separate yourself from living inside the four-walls of your skin and get a glimpse of a bigger work, a bigger picture that is being formed.  I see something being crafted over the past year and a half.

Perhaps the fact that Judah just turned one helps to put this in focus.  I think about finding out I was pregnant and the weighty feel of panic that made my heart sink.  All my dreams and plans for the next year vanished in the few seconds it took to look at that little plus-sign.  I couldn’t imagine life with four kids, with ANOTHER baby, and being “tied down” at home, yet again.  The coming of that little life caused us to sell our house and move to a different neighborhood and into a house with one more bedroom.  It was never the house of our dreams, though it suited our needs just fine.  But it was this new neighborhood and house that made it impossible to attend Buda Elementary and ultimately led us to the decision to begin “Family Rehab”.  This blog being the result of that decision, has led to other encouraging open doors, paths and relationships.  I also over the past year have completed writing and editing a book and it will (God-willing) be published later this summer.  God has done so many things this year that I didn’t see when I was panicking about diaper changing and midnight feedings.  As I look back on the year, diapers aren’t even a memory.  I honestly don’t remember any of the late nights and the struggle.  I simply see God’s hand at work to create a bigger picture.

Having the kids at home and not in school has made this move to Katy a little easier for all of us.  And I look back on the decision to do so and thank God for His foresight and knowledge and for laying it so heavily on my heart.  He knew what He was doing in order to gently care for the hearts of my children.  I could go on and on about how I see God painting a bigger picture of preparation and provision for our family in this move.  It’s just so amazing and it challenges me to trust Him during the times when I don’t see a complete big picture.

My third emotion is fear.  I really run from engaging with this emotion.  I am leaving a place where I have been able to be a pastor’s wife, a mom, and still do the things I love at the same time.  (Not that I don’t love being a wife and a mom…:)  But, I’ve enjoyed being needed beyond the home.  I’ve enjoyed being seen as having purpose outside the home.  I’ve enjoyed it to the point that it’s been a struggle for me to not be satisfied just being in the home.  I should be satisfied.  I should be content.  I should be thankful with what I have and even less.  My identity is found and secure in Jesus and all that He says I am.  I fear living this out everyday.  I don’t want to be naive and think I won’t struggle in this area.  I will.  I know I will.  And I fear the questions I will place on my identity and worth as it is challenged by responsibilities being removed.  I also look forward to having  season of rest.  But, when I’m all rested up, let’s face it: I’m going to miss being needed.  I’m going to miss the joy and fulfillment of using my gifts and talents to serve Jesus and others.  I am confident God will continue to use me.  It just might look different.  And I honestly need help to trust Him in this—to really believe He knows what is best and indeed has my good and the good of the Church in mind.

Finally, (although I’m sure there are more hidden somewhere inside) the last emotion I feel is excitement.  I have been and currently am so tired from the past 8 years.  It’s been hard work.  And I know that there is hard work coming.    I feel as though all of us, even the kids, will be able to identify what specific things God is calling us to—what things we are to focus on.  And I really do believe that whatever He reveals those things to be, we will have the ability to spend more time and energy focused on fewer things.  I really do feel like we will be able to grow because we won’t be spread so thin.  It’s exactly what my desire was for “family rehab”.  I wanted us to take away school to be intentional and focused on our family.  I feel like this move is an extension of that initial calling to rehabilitate.  I am excited to see where God takes this and what He does with it.  I’m excited to see how my children grow and are challenged.  Even though I’m fearful about all the time I will have on my hands, I’m excited to see how God molds and shapes me and draws me closer to Him.  I’m excited to see where we are going to live!  Because right now, we have no idea!

As I look back on the emotions I listed above I see something…maybe a big picture kind of something.  Out of my emotions—sadness, awe, fear, and excitement—I see that I am safe.  I might feel like I am a neurotic mess, but I am safe.  I am safe in the Father’s hands.  I am safe and secure in His plan, His purpose, and His provision.  I am covered in His love, His faithfulness, and His grace.  Now I am reminded why I started coming to this blank screen church of mine—this keyboard confessional.  In the silence of the typing keys and by the soft candle-like glow of my laptop, Jesus has met me where I am—an emotional basket-case.  He reminds me that I am safe.  I am secure.  He speaks His unwavering words to me in this time of change:

But you, Israel, my servant,
Jacob, whom I have chosen,
the offspring of Abraham, my friend;
you whom I took from the ends of the earth,
and called from its farthest corners,
saying to you, “You are my servant,
I have chosen you and not cast you off”;
fear not, for I am with you;
be not dismayed, for I am your God;
I will strengthen you, I will help you,
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. (Isaiah 41:8-10, ESV)

Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. (John 20:21-22, ESV)

I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there was none of them.
How precious to me are your thoughts, O God!
How vast is the sum of them!
If I would count them, they are more than the sand.
I awake, and I am still with you. (Psalm 139:14-18, ESV)